Parents and Dr. Looney’s Reaction to WCS Bus Driver Departure

Parents and Dr. Looney’s Reaction to WCS Bus Driver Departure

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Yesterday, we shared with you a story about a local Williamson County Schools bus driver who had turned in his notice after 6 years on the job, due to a cut in hours.

We asked for your comments regarding our story and your experiences with this year’s bus routes.  We received an overwhelming response through Facebook and comments on our website.

Dr. Looney Addresses Comments

Posted on our website and seen this morning:

Thanks everyone for expressing their concerns on this important issue. We are working hard to recruit and retain drivers. Please allow me an opportunity to provide additional information.
All drivers received a 5% raise this year and we worked hard to secure it.

WCS bus drivers are paid hourly for the time they drive. Driver pay could only be reduced if he/she switched routes to something shorter. Typically, this occurs when a driver requests a route closer to home or when we have to shift drivers due to growth. Drivers that are doing an extra run work longer and earn more. Those who live far from their route are compensated for their extra-long drive time.

Starting pay for drivers is over 14 per hour with experienced drivers earning more for longevity. In addition, we pay drivers an extra 88 hours each year to keep their buses clean and to take them in for service. Although bus drivers do not work a 40 hour week, they do receive full time benefits to include health insurance, retirement, life insurance etc….

There is a regional bus driver shortage and many middle TN districts are competing for drivers. It is a particularly difficult challenge in Williamson County in part because of the lack of affordable housing in the community.

Unfortunately, our director of transportation recently passed and this has put the department behind schedule in filling vacancies. We have someone working on this full time, have 8 drivers in training and are currently interviewing for a new director.

I apologize for the inconvenience this issue has created for families. We are working diligently to resolve it. A vast majority of our drivers are hardworking, dependable, and are deserving of additional compensation. I support these individuals and will continue to work on their behalf. Hopefully, the community will support such an action in the future.

I am completely open to input and suggestions from the public on how to best address this challenge. I can be reached by phone at 615.293.0997

Respectfully,
Mike Looney

We received  comments from parents regarding children having to ride with at least three to a seat. 

Melissa Krawcyk: “We cannot pay the people who get our children to and from safely, the money they deserve but Looney can get a huge pay increase? Our children are sitting 3-4 in a seat and always getting calls they would be late due to shortage of drivers. They need to pay these drivers what they deserve!”

Angela Santoro: “My kids were affected by this last year. At times not getting home til 5, 3 kids deep in the seats. This year, even changing schools in the district we now are being “missed” on pick ups. We just started school. There was no phone call or email sent out and thankfully I was home when my child came home after 30 minutes of waiting for the bus. When I called the bus depot, they just said they would look into it. This happened 2 times in 1 week.”

Laela Trudeau: “I’d rather my kids get home later than having them combined with TWO other buses. Having 3 to seat in High School is just not working. My daughter said there isn’t room for everyone to sit so many kids have to stand in the aisle! How is that safe?! If I could drive them to school, I would.”

Yesterday’s article told the story of local bus driver Jerry Martin and many of you wrote it to tell us about Martin.

Kelli: “Jerry was the driver on my daughter’s route. This was her first year she finally convinced us to let her ride. Since he’s left we wait on average 30-30 mins in morning and after school never knowing who or when the pick up and drop offs are. Was super impressed and now not at all and we will be doing the pick up and drop offs due to lack of communication going on.”

Kim Cannon: “Mr. Martin is my son’s bus driver. Every morning this year he puts the bus in park and gets up to make sure all of the kids have a seat. The bus is as full it can be. He is patient and kind. Pay them all what they deserve. School couldn’t start on time if we all had to drive the kids to school.”

Readers also expressed concern about the current bus routes.

Lori: “The transportation has long need an infusion of common sense. At one time our kids picked up the high school bus at 5:50 am and returned home at 4:20. First on in the morning and last off on the way home. I was told time and time again the “computer” set the route. As a former WCS employee myself, it is dishearten how little the county is willing to spend to insure our children have a educational system that cares about them. Some of the restrictions for hiring drivers is ridiculous.  Parents need to demand that our children are put first. Time to rid the system of the old school mind set. This county is just going to continue to grow at a rapid rate. Seems the WCS is always playing catch up and not thinking to the future. Anyone that has attended  more efficient and successful school districts knows it can be done better than its being handled now.”

Mary: “This saddens me to see good bus drivers go. Part of our children’s education is safe travel to and from school. If WC wants to continue being THE BEST, which I believe we are, then this issue must be addressed and rectified immediately! As with most things in life, you get what you pay for and I, for one, want GREAT bus drivers for my/our kids!”

This reader only identified themselves as ‘Upset’: “I am glad to hear others people have concerns. When I talked to Ms. Nunley about my concerns with my son’s late bus (Driver decided he did not like the route on the website – changed it for his convenience without notifying the parents. Past the bus stop where his ride was waiting and left him off at an empty house) her response was flippant. I was told the route was changed for safety reasons. This answer didn’t make sense for two reasons. One -the bus has been using this route for years with no problems (different driver). Two the route was changed by the new driver (without notification to the parents) because he lives down the street and it is more convenient for him. We are currently using other means to get to and from school but it is a shame the transportation department is not held accountable.”

 

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Read:WCS Bus Driver Regretfully Departs Amid Shortage

11 Comments

  1. M Buschini

    Some pf is have been rezoned, yet grandfathered in, so kids can stay at closest schools. When we TRIED to appeal to Dr. Looney & board to reconsider we were told it was a sheer business decision.
    Although we live less than 1 mile from school we are required to drive students???!!
    This makes absolutely NO sense. It o my adds to traffic congestion & puts undue hardships on families who already have busses transporting to/from neighborhood for these very same schools! (Since many students were grandfathered in & allowed to remain regardless of refining.)
    Administrators need to administrate & re-evaluate rezoning, R specifically for Thomps Stations students at Summit.
    Take voluntary pay cuts & purchase more buses. Paying drivers decent living wages is a start, but only part of real issue.

  2. Liz Tompkins

    I am pretty sure driving your kids to school and picking them up is still an option! If you are not happy with the system currently then maybe you could take them until the system straightens this situation out!

  3. Rebecca

    Thanks Dr. Looney for addressing the situation. AFTER it had become a problem. Too busy hammering out your pay raise and/or interviewing with other counties? Do you often wait until the issue becomes critical to address it? Do you need MORE money to pay attention and notice an absence in a position?

    1. absence?

      Pretty sure no one had the foresight in the director of transportation suddenly DYING a few weeks back. Driver shortages are state wide.

  4. Deanna

    First off, Dr. Looney has not control over Mr. Hancock dying Rebecca. It’s kind of hard to predict these things and he only passed away within the last 10 days. He has the right to interview just as much as anyone else does. The bus situation is at it’s worse. The drivers do not get paid for the responsibility they have.

    We don’t need more parents on the road transporting their kids as they suggest, but yet we can’t have kids standing in the aisles and 3 to a seat either. I vote they receive another 5% raise, give them back their longevity pay (it was taken away) and you may be able to keep bus drivers.

    1. Rebecca

      You are correct Deana. If the person who cut his check passed away – think he would’ve addressed it sooner than later.

  5. Lisa

    Sympathy to the late director’s family & friends. Unfortunately Dr. Looney, the bus issue started last year. A solution should have been put in place before school started. In addition, nothing was mentioned about our children’s safety, with over crowded buses.

  6. Frank

    I believe Dr. Looney’s statement (“WCS bus drivers are paid hourly for the time they drive”) is truly a “politically correct” response and is only part of the story. The “complete story” is that “WCS bus drivers are paid hourly for the time they drive…with KIDS on the bus”…not the entire time they drive. There is a HUGE difference in these two statements. I know this first hand, as I drove a bus for WCS for 2 years and just left this past year. In some cases it takes an hour for the driver to drive from where their bus is parked (usually a school that is closest to where the driver lives) to the school that they are driving their route for. So, in this scenario…driving to the school and back in the morning is two hours unpaid for the driver…and driving there and back in the afternoon is two more hours unpaid for the driver…giving the driver 4 hours of unpaid time in the bus…per DAY! In other words, this means that there is no paid status for the driver in the morning as the driver drives to their first pickup and there is no paid status after they have dropped off their kids at the school. In the afternoon…they are again in an unpaid status as the driver drives back to the school to pick up the kids to take them home…and then again…after they have dropped off their last kid…they are in an unpaid status as they drive the bus back home.
    I have always had a concern since the day I started driving. What would happen if I got in a wreck on my way to picking up my kids in the morning…still in an “unpaid status” because no kids were on my bus yet…Would I be held personally liable…or would WCS be liable…in other words…would I be “protected” by the county insurance” since I am technically not working in this scenario (as I would be in an unpaid status)???
    There are many other issues that represent why drivers like me leave WCS. This is not the forum to discuss them all, only the one presented (in my view erroneously). That said, while driving a bus load of 84 kids is QUITE difficult…I loved the kids on my bus! 99% of them were absolute jewels and we got along great! For the most part, the kids on my bus were respectful and courteous. So, parents must be doing something right!!! Thank You WCS students and parents for some great memories!

  7. Ongoing Issue

    Hats off to all the drivers that work so hard to get our kids to & from school. How does WCS pay rate compare to FSSD driver rates? Back 4-5 years ago when bus stops were revamped to “save money” by making less stops, has this helped? Have we saved & do bus drivers follow the scheduled stops? I can say NO they do not follow them. My kids are dropped off at a corner, while the bus stops 3 Yes THREE Houses down to provide front door service for another child, who by the way is suppose to be dropped off at the same stop my kids are dropped at. I have asked questions, told it would be looked into, nothing has ever changed. Please Dr. Looney hire someone that will fix this problem.

    Also if we can come up with money to defend Dr. Looney in a ridiculous lawsuit brought on by Barb Sturgeon. Does anyone know how the lawsuit ended? Shouldn’t she have paid his attorney fees. If one of our kids brought a gun to school, what would have happened? I think we all know. Yet they ended the suit in an Agreed Order that neither party accepts blame for what happened. Way to set an example for our kids.

    Let’s compensate these men & women fairly. I know it’s not an easy job.

  8. james

    There is a device on the buses in Williamson County that can be used to find out whether the driver is compensated for all he works. If it was utilized, you would have your answer as to whether the employee is being compensated for what he or she works.

  9. Concerned

    Dr Looney I don’t believe Metro Nashville and Franklin Special School District are having issues with driver shortage. So what are our peer districts doing different from WCS? I believe both systems guarantee their drivers 6 to 7 hours each day and mirror holiday pay and other brnefits to match the teachers. Our drivers need stable pay and benefits that mirror our teachers. Lets be fair to our drivers and follow the examples of our peer school districts as it relates to our bus drivers.

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